Powering the brigade combat team:
Communications-Electronics Command project manager to revolutionize warfighters' power sources

by Stephen Larsen

FORT BELVOIR, Va. When the Cold War petered out not with a bang but with a whimper, the Army was left with what Chief of Staff GEN Eric Shinseki called a "bifurcated force." Its heavy divisions, he said, designed for a massive European land campaign that was never waged, had too much tail to go quickly to erupting hotspots. On the other hand, its light forces lacked the teeth or survivability to be put in the middle of a broiling war.

Shinseki sought to close the force gap with a brigade somewhere in the middle: a new, full-spectrum brigade combat team, a medium force with the combat punch and survivability of a heavy brigade but the speed and agility of a light brigade. Where heavy divisions rolled on massive, tracked armor, the swift BCT would race on wheeled armored vehicles – all equipped with full suites of the latest command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

In October 1999, Shinseki directed the Army to use its current inventory to create the initial BCT at Fort Lewis, Wash., to be operational by December 2001. Interim BCTs, he directed, using commercial-off-the-shelf equipment, were to be operational in 2003. He further directed that the objective BCT force of the future be ready by 2012.

"All the technical wizardry in the world won’t work if you don’t have power," understated COL James Wells, the Fort Belvoir, Va.-based project manager for mobile electric power with Communications-Electronics Command’s systems-management center, Fort Monmouth, N.J. "Without electric power, provided primarily by mobile generators in the combat zone, weapon systems, sophisticated C4ISR systems, and logistics support systems all would be of little use."

MEP manages a coordinated interservice effort to develop, acquire and support the Defense Department’s MEP generators.

"The speed required by the BCT will come with a smaller logistic footprint," said Wells. He said that towards that end, the Army will be using a systems approach to BCT fielding, deploying fewer systems with reduced numbers of spare parts, adding that PM-MEP can play a part. "If we realize greater fuel efficiencies with generators, we can help decrease the total tonnage of deploying forces."

Wells said that MEP will support the initial BCT in 2001 with COTS equipment in the tactical quiet generator family, which includes five-kilowatt, 10 kw, 15 kw, 30 kw and 60 kw TQGs. MEP will support the interim BCT of 2003 with new technology insertion in the TQG family, starting with a new three-kw TQG. (The production contract for this was awarded Feb. 29 to Fermont, of Bridgeport, Conn.) MEP will support the objective brigade solution BCT of 2012 through the technology breakthroughs of the advanced medium-sized mobile power sources program, which will start fielding the next generation of tactical power sources in 2007.

New generator

The three-kw TQG will be the first in the TQG family to use the advanced technologies of a variable speed diesel engine and a permanent magnet alternator and power inverter.

"Normally, conventional generators run at either 1,800 or 3,600 revolutions per minute," said Ray Billings, a project engineer with MEP, adding that the three-kw TQG will run at variable speeds up to 3,300 rpm. "Since engine speed is in direct proportion to the load, the variable speed engine will work only as hard as it needs to for any given load," said Billings. "That means less fuel and a longer engine life than conventional generators, which work at the same speed regardless of the load."

The permanent magnetic alternator, Billings added, provides high-speed, three-phase alternating current output to the power inverter, which provides voltage and frequency regulation to within 1 percent. "The permanent magnet generator means less weight (272 pounds empty and 326 pounds with battery and full fuel, 40 percent less than the current three-kw set it will replace), and the precise frequency regulation of the power inverter adds to the three-kw TQG’s efficiency," he said.

The three-kw TQG will also include all other desirable features of the TQG family, such as low noise, smaller cubic size (35 inches x 28 inches x 27 inches), increased reliability and protection from electromagnetic interference and nuclear, biological and chemical agents.

"Compared to the aging military standard generator sets they’re replacing," said Billings, "TQGs are quieter, smaller, lighter, more reliable, use less fuel and are all diesel JP-8 (jet petroleum) powered – supporting the Defense Department’s ‘one fuel on the battlefield’ policy."

The three-kw TQGs are being procured in both 60 hertz and 400 hz versions and are skid- or trailer-mounted to meet tactical-user requirements. Trailer-mounted sets are power plants (two per trailer). The first units will be fielded in March 2001.

3-kilowatt generator TQGs will be mobile power sources for IBCT.

Revolutionary, not evolutionary

By the time the Army is ready to field the objective BCT, MEP will be ready to power it with a new family of tactical electric power systems called AMMPS. "The AMMPS family of power systems represents a revolutionary, not evolutionary, approach to power sources," said Selma Matthews, an engineer with CECOM’s research, development and engineering center, which is supporting MEP. "They represent the next generation: a standard family of signature-suppressed, electronically controlled, diesel-fuel-burning power systems for use on the 21st-century tactical battlefield."

The program is being executed by MEP, supported by the combined efforts of the power-generation branch of CECOM’s RDEC, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"Basically, we’re investigating emerging power technologies in the tech base," said Matthews, "and melding technological breakthroughs with state-of-the-art commercial technology. We look at the Army requirements and say ‘this is what you want to do ... and here’s how to do it with today’s technology.’"

Matthews said the Army follows guidelines called science-and-technology objectives for applying basic research to Army requirements. In the AMMPS arena, they’re following the integrated-power-management STO, which Matthews said was devised to research and develop emerging electromechanical-power technologies and advanced materials that show potential to enhance power generation by reducing fuel consumption, reducing system size and weight and increasing survivability for military applications – while reducing total ownership costs.

"AMMPS units must work in unique military environments in every corner of the world," said Matthews – from arctic to temperate to desert to tropical. "They must be capable of starting and operating in all extreme military environments. You can’t take the (existing) tech base and expect it will work tomorrow."

"By the time the BCT objective solution is ready to field in 2012, AMMPS will be fully tested and in place," said Matthews.

When all is said and done, there will be three to five different-sized AMMPS units that will provide power in the five-kw through 60-kw range, which represents a better than 50 percent reduction in configuration compared with the current TQG family. "The number of power units in the new (AMMPS) family will be based on commercial engine sizes," Matthews said.

As with the soon-to-field three-kw TQGs, AMMPS units will likely use permanent magnet alternators, instead of conventional designs, to reduce size and weight. AMMPS will reduce weight by up to 50 percent, reduce noise from 70 decibels to 65 decibels and reduce fuel consumption by 25 percent.

"Fuel is a key concern," said Matthews, explaining that the Army has investigated the use of alternative exotic fuel sources, including hydrogen and nuclear power – both of which offer severe logistics and safety problems. JP-8 diesel fuel, she said, is the primary source of fuel on the battlefield for the near future.

"We have a Defense Department directive to use JP-8 diesel fuels," said Matthews. "We have to take advances and apply them to using JP-8."

Their ultimate goal, she said, is to ensure all platforms fit into Shinseki’s vision, right down to the power piece.

"Power is the lynchpin of the battlefield," said Matthews. "The BCT will be of no use if it doesn’t have power – and the power has to be as small as possible to support whatever platforms we have."

Mr. Larsen works at CECOM’s SMC.

Acronym QuickScan
AMMPS – advanced medium-sized mobile power sources (program)
BCT – brigade combat team
C4ISR – command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
CECOM – Communications-Electronics Command
COTS – commercial-off-the-shelf
Hz – hertz
Kw – kilowatt
MEP – mobile electric power
PM – project manager
RDEC – research, development and engineering center
Rpm – revolutions per minute
SMC – systems-management center
STO – science-and-technology objectives
TQG – tactical quiet generator

dividing rule

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